As a youth, my parents taught me to pray to God and obey the teachings and rules of the Catholic Church. Between the ages of 12 to 18, I sensed God's presence each morning while delivering newspapers to my customers and viewing God's Creation in new ways as the seasons came and went over those six years. From all of this, I felt a personal closeness to the Creator of everything that exists. This might not exactly qualify as Theism in the way textbooks define it, but God seemed very personal back now.
But not personal enough. When I left home to attend the University of Virginia, I began to question the teachings and rules of the Catholic Church I had been taught and practiced. I began to sit in the back and observe others, who seemed to be "going through the motions" as the Mass was recited the same way each Sunday, in Latin, by a priest who was usually facing away. We sang no hymns to worship God nor read the Bible to better understand the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. After about a year, I left the teachings and rules of the Church (Religious Legalism) without any guilt or regret. If I had experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, I would have stayed – but Jesus was only taught to me, not caught by me. I still believed everything I recited in The Apostles Creed, but God was becoming more and more distant, until I became a Deist without knowing this at that time. I knew God was up there somewhere, but He was no longer present in my heart or life.
The next descent on my journey was towards Naturalism/Humanism – where there is no need for God, according to what I studied academically: Biology emphasized the evolution of all life from simple to complex life. Physics emphasized the universe suddenly bursting on the scene. Behavioral psychology studied stimulus-response connections in lower animals to understand higher evolved human beings, while humanistic psychology insisted human reason is the highest evolved condition and human potential can be Self-developed to become Self-actualizing. In my youth while practicing Religious Legalism, I had prayed on my knees to God each night, even as a university student. I did this in reverence for God. During my Self-development journey, I stopped praying. A Self-sufficient person does not feel the need to pray, a Self-satisfied person will not pray, and a Self-centered person cannot pray to Self. Vainly, I continued striving to Be and Behave in ways that would enable me to Become a liberated Self-actualizing person. But, this ultimately proved as futile and meaningless as practicing Religious Legalism.
My next descent was a brief experience with Nihilism when I decided it was time to settle down and asked "Miss Wonderful" to marry me and she said, "NO." This made me loose all hope for my future as I finally realized the Human Potential Movement would never help me Become Self-actualizing as it promised. After more than ten dedicated years of trying to Be and Behave in specific ways to Become Self-actualizing, I realized my life was vain, futile and meaningless – and there was nothing more I could Be or Do to change this. I considered suicide as the only option left, and phoned my Dad to tell him. For the first time in my life, he listened to me – for nearly two hours.
God used this to get my attention, so that I began considering returning to Him. I did not want to embrace "something else" because of blind faith. I needed to gain intellectual faith to support my saving faith in Jesus Christ as I Became Born Again – as I describe in Why Become a Christian? A Spiritual Memoir.